The Limits of Control in Hungry Hearts

“This is very embarrassing”, says Adam Driver’s Jude to Alba Rohrwacher’s Mina in a confined toilet cubicle of a Chinese restaurant in the opening scene of Saverio Costanzo’s Hungry Hearts. It’s a sequence that sits at odds with the rest of the film and one that initially had me worried about the rest of the film. It’s, shall we say, pungent use of toilet humour initially coming off as an unpleasant palate setter. In retrospect, the scene is rather ingenious in the way it completely offsets the audience’s expectations. Knowing zero about the film going in as I did, and ten minutes in there is no possible way to know where it will end up, which only seeks to heighten the horrors when they eventually come flooding into the narrative after a speaker-busting use of Irena Cara’s “Flashdance… What a Feeling” and shotgun wedding filled with gaiety and love.

Mina and Jude are expecting a child and so she puts her career on hold and the two move in to her glorious top-floor apartment near 72nd Street in Manhattan. She visits a clairvoyant of sorts and collapses on a rooftop at a friend’s art exhibit. She underweight and so too is the child when he is eventually born. Mina’s concern over radiation and air pollution mean she and the baby never leave the confines of their apartment except to tend to the makeshift greenhouse that they have erected on the roof and cell-phones must be left at the bottom of the creaking staircase. Jude’s initial discomfort becomes terrified panic and it becomes clear that Mina’s paranoia is effectively killing their child. He begins taking the child out for walks, entering a church just to feed him ham and other meats in order to make him grow, but when Mina’s delusions become too much, the extreme nature of their situation becomes too much to bear.

Read the rest at FIPRESCI.


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